Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015.
Children spend much of their young lives waiting. And when it comes to waiting for Christmas’ arrival, the waiting and longing can feel unbearable.
Waiting Songs, the new album from musical collective Rain for Roots, offers children and their parents something substantial to consider during Advent. Since the Bible is one big story of God’s redemptive work – and believers are part of that story – then through our waiting we join with other biblical characters who waited.
Waiting Songs tells stories of waiting, hoping, and longing. Sometimes those stories are fun, like the song about Zechariah’s mute days awaiting the birth of his son John. Others – like “Isaiah 11” and “Every Valley” – draw on writings of the prophets that anticipate days of peace that are yet to come. Even Eve has a place among those waiting in the song “Mary Comforts Eve,” a song inspired by Sister Grace Remington’s drawing of Mary reassuring Eve while Eve wonders at Mary’s baby bump.
The album, released November 10, is full of songs that grew out of conversations among the Rain for Roots musicians – friends Katy Bowser, Sandra McCracken, and Flo Paris Oakes – as they intentionally moved their families away from the culture’s consumer-driven Christmas mindset and toward a more traditional celebration of Advent.
While the album is for children, the songs never over-simplify Christian truths. Waiting Songs creates space for children and adults to consider together why it is hard to wait and the way that life – even and especially during the Christmas season – brings together sorrow and joy. The songs invite families to ponder what one song calls the “almost, not yet, already” of redemption.
Oakes said the themes they tackle on this newest project are ones that her family members see around them. Families in her community are struggling and hurting, and her daughters – age 9 and 11 – can see life’s brokenness, too. Oakes said the album strives to point children to the One who will one day set all things right.
“Joy is always there alongside the sorrow, like an undercurrent pulling us steadily down stream,” McCracken said. “Joy is a constant tug beneath the surface, reminding us that sorrow will not have the last word.”
This is Rain for Roots’ third album, and each album has approached increasingly complex aspects of the Bible.
The first album, Big Stories for Little Ones, handled biblical narratives like God rescuing Daniel from lions and Jesus calming the storm. The sophomore project, The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This, explored Jesus’ parables. Waiting Songs examines how believers wait for the return of the King.
Bowser said the musicians never set out to create albums that increased in theological abstraction; the songs simply flowed out of the life of friendship and ideas that the women have been discussing together. And they believe children accommodate paradox and complicated theology more easily than many adults realize.
Since McCracken, Bowser, and Oakes are mothers as well as musicians, their children join in the creative process. The children sing and read Scripture on many of the tracks and were the target audience as their mothers wrote the songs.
The women of Rain for Roots hope that Waiting Songs will encourage families to think carefully about Advent. The season gives believers an opportunity to examine their hearts and consider whether they are waiting in hope for Christ’s return or simply muddling through life.
“It’s difficult to really imagine and believe that one day, Jesus will return and make all things right. But practicing hopefulness and waiting every Advent season in this intentional way makes me better believe that the real thing is coming,” Oakes said. “He came once as a baby, and He will come back to restore creation.”
The album opens with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and concludes with “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” To the final song, Rain for Roots adds a simple refrain: “We are waiting, we are waiting, we are waiting for You.” Just like the men and women whose stories are recorded in Scripture, we wait for the Messiah. Just like the saints of old who first penned Advent hymns, we wait for the return of the King.
The first three weeks of December might be the time when we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth, but all throughout life we are waiting for the good King to return and restore His world. Waiting Songs encourage believers young and old to wait well – and with hope.
Photo by Eric Brown.